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Out With The Kids: Farmers Market ‘mad libs’ boost interest in poetry

Joyce Sidman’s poem “Welcome to the Night” was dissected into a “mad lib.”
Joyce Sidman’s poem “Welcome to the Night” was dissected into a “mad lib.” Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

To promote the upcoming visit of Kwame Alexander — one of children’s literature’s hottest names — and the launch of Western Washington University Libraries Poetry CHaT Collection, local literature lovers will be offering free poetry “mad libs” this weekend.

They’ll be staffing a booth at the Bellingham Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, in Depot Market Square, corner of Railroad Avenue and Maple Street.

A mad lib is a word game — popular at parties and on family car trips — that takes a familiar piece of writing but adds random spaces for the players to substitute their own words instead of the author’s. The finished product is read aloud and often results in hilarity and ridiculous nonsense.

‘The Crossover’ is a story in verse about twin brothers and their dad, and their love of basketball.

“It has all these blanks and you have to write in a verb or a noun and then you read them,” said Sylvia Tag, a WWU librarian and associate professor. “Like, ‘If I were in charge of the world, I’d cancel (blank) and also (blank).’”

Poetry mad libs will be displayed on an easel so everyone can read the works in progress.

They’ll also be distributing poems and verse, printed on small card stock.

“You can stop by and get a poem to put in your pocket,” Tag said.

She said the aim is to generate interest in Alexander’s free talk, 6:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21, at Bellingham High School. Alexander wrote “The Crossover,” a story in verse about twin brothers and their dad, and their love of basketball. It won the 2015 Newbery Medal for children’s literature and a bushel of other prizes, including a Coretta Scott King Honor, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, Paterson Poetry Prize for Young People’s Literature and the Charlotte Huck Award Honor for Outstanding Fiction for Children.

Alexander’s appearance is part of WWU’s annual Compass to Campus program to promote post-secondary education for area fifth-graders and to publicize the new WWU Poetry CHaT Collection for children and teens.

Reach Robert Mittendorf at 360-756-2805 or robert.mittendorf@bellinghamherald.com. Tweeting @BhamMitty.

Online

Find Robert Mittendorf’s Out With the Kids column online at BellinghamHerald.com/out-with-kids.

Upcoming

Mad libs: Bellingham Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, in Depot Market Square, corner of Railroad Avenue and Maple Street.

Kwame Alexander: Free talk from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21, at Bellingham High School, 2020 Cornwall Ave. Student poetry performances start at 5:45 p.m.

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